|(Click to Enlarge)|
Released over two and a half years ago, in January 2010, Vesa Timonen's Square is among the most stunning puzzles in the Hanayama Cast series, looking more like a work of art than a puzzle. The theme for the Cast Square is "Orientation".
Comprised by four apparently "identical" pieces, the puzzle has an internal mechanism that prevents it from being taken apart just by sliding its pieces. While they appear to be identical in the outside, their true nature lies beyond the hidden locking mechanism. After you solve the puzzle, you'll see what's really going on...
The Cast Square is relatively small, only 4.8cm (1.9"), but it's quite a hefty object. It's beautifully presented in a two-color coating finish in silver and gold, although it scratches pretty easily and your fingertips will be noticeable all over it. After playing with it, clean it up with a fiber cloth to prevent stains in the metal.
The Square is rated by Hanayama as a level 6/6 along with six other puzzles. It's the level with less puzzles, actually, which gives you a pretty good idea that for a puzzle to be there, it must be extremely hard. Well, not so much... I think this one wasn't crazy hard to be classified as a level 6. In my opinion, it should've been a 5/6.
(Click to Enlarge) - Slightly Opened
The first thing you notice when you attempt to separate the Square's pieces is that it's very easy to open it to a certain amount by pulling on opposite diagonally pieces, but then it stops. There's clearly something blocking the parts from fully separate, and that's obviously related to the rattling you should hear from inside. If you ever solved the Cast News, I believe the movement necessary to separate the pieces is very similar to this. If you remember, the Cast News also had an internal mechanism with pieces rattling inside. The Square has sort of this same type of pieces, so my first thought after hearing them was to perform the exact same movement, when lo and behold, the pieces went flying off in the direction of the four corners of the table.
(Click to Enlarge) - Solved
When I went to analyse the pieces, I could see that my hunch was right; the internal mechanism has similarities with the Cast News. Returning the puzzle to its original position can be either fast or painfully frustrating, depending on your luck. My advice is to pay extra attention to the configuration of the pieces and their correct orientation - Remember the theme word? - If you fail to connect the pieces correctly, they won't fully close into the square shape. Even if you remembered that the pieces fit in an alternating pattern (gold-silver-gold-silver), you can still make the mistake of getting them wrong. If you do, not even the "magic" movement will save you, and separating the pieces could be rather difficult. You know you did well when you see the pieces slide back to their original position in an instant. That's when you'll have the puzzle fully solved.
(Click to Enlarge) - Wrong Arrangement (Pieces won't slide any further)
Solving the Cast News first, clearly was a big help towards solving the Cast Square, as we all learn something from past experiences with other puzzles. Therefore, equally hard puzzles become a lot easier. Had I not solved the Cast News, I wouldn't have solved the Square so fast, but looking at other level 6 and level 5 puzzles, I still think that it should belong in the level 5 category.
Solution: To download a solution, check out the puzzle at Sloyd's. Want a hint that can help you to solve it? - Try using "centrifugal force".
As a decorative object, the Cast Square has a wonderful design very pleasant to look at, ensuring intriguing and astonishment looks from friends or co-workers. As a puzzle, the concept was not new to me, but I still enjoyed it very much. Not for a casual player, but a nice challenge for a skilled puzzle aficionado.
Availability: My Cast Square came from the Finish store Sloyd and you can get one for about €15. To browse through all the others in the Cast series, check out their special Hanayama page.
Hanayama Cast (in English) - Very useful website in English, with plenty of information on all things Cast.
Hanayama's Factory Visit (Many thanks to Roxanne Wong for sharing these pictures)